Vie for Glory
Death saves – If you have been knocked unconscious and still have your second wind you may use the second wind without the bonuses on your first successful death saving throw.
Two-Hit Minions – As the name implies it takes two hits to destroy a two-hit minion. After the first hit the minion is bloodied. This serves two purposes. First it lets the players know which minions will fall with a single hit and which ones still need two hits. The second is that some PCs can do different things against bloodied opponents than they can against non-bloodied opponents. So one hit: bloodied, two hits: dead. The only exception is on a natural 20. In those rare instances when a PC crits a two-hit minions it’s counted as two hits and that minions is destroyed. Now players don’t feel like a crit on a minion is a wasted 20. If the attack score (d20+bonus) exceeds the defense the PC was targeting by 5 or more the target falls prone.
Other types of minions -
1. Make your minions 5 levels higher than your PCs, even if that means they are higher level than the non-minion enemies. Having 1 hp doesn’t matter if the PCs can’t hit them every single time. This also increases the minion’s attack rolls and damage and makes them an actual threat because they will hit – a lot. When the controller’s burst attack takes out 1 and misses 4, then those four minions proceed to bloody the controller, watch your players scramble around and redeploy their resources to deal with them!
2. Tie waves of minions to events on the battlefield. “When Monster A is bloodied, six minions enter the fight” or “When the PCs are halfway through the skill challenge, six minions show up and engage.” Elites or solos that “generate” minions are also cool – an undead behemoth is destroyed and spewing from its corpse comes half a dozen skeletons of previously digested victims… that sort of thing. By adding minions to the fight after the party is engaged (and having already picked their ideal combat position), it changes the dynamic a lot.
3. Have your minions do Aid Another instead of attacking. A high damage brute with four minions aiding its attack ( + 8 to hit!) makes that creature especially dangerous and forces the players to focus on minions first before anything else. Alternately, have them aid a nasty controller’s defense ( + 8 to defenses against the next attack!). For added cruelty, make those minions something like cute little street urchins or hapless peasants under mind control so that the PCs cringe when they have to take them out.
4. Halfling minions. They’re just plain awesome because of Second Chance. It forces a reroll on the part of the player, even on crits, but still gives them a chance to take out the minion in one go. Reskin the halflings and that power in particular for anything that works in your story, e.g. cultists of a chaotic deity, a cool James Bond-esque fight in a casino, etc.
Remove all restrictions. Don’t force the +2 modifier to any specific stats; allow the player to assign them to any two they want. For example, Dwarves normally get +2 to Wisdom and +2 to either Constitution or Strength. If You’re playing a Dwarven Wizard you may instead want to take a +2 in Intelligence, or if you’re playing a Sorcerer you may want +2 in Charisma. This change will encourage race/class combos you wouldn’t normally see and players can assign that +2 bonus to the stats they need to excel in a certain class. (Obviously Humans will still just get +2 to any single ability score, so no change there.)
Once you take a multi-class feat you can swap out one encounter, daily and utility power from your main class with your new class. You are not required to take the Novice Power, Adept Power and Acolyte Power feats. Bards who multi-class more than once can only power swap with one of their new classes.
All character will use inherent bonuses. This allows the DM to award cool magic treasure and not merely hand out +1 stuff to keep the math in check.
Downgrade Second Wind from a standard action to a move action. This serves two purposes. 1) If characters can attack every round combat will go faster, something everyone wants. 2) When a PC falls unconscious they usually miss at least one round of attacks and force another PC to stop fighting and heal them. If Second Wind is a move action a wounded PC is more likely to use it before they’re down to their last hit point.
Allow players to use their action points to take immediate actions. If a player can justify why their PC should take certain action between turns, allow it and charge them with an action point. Examples include catching a falling ally, blocking or taking a hit for an adjacent ally, shooting at a fleeing enemy. Reward creativity.
This is something we’ve tried with a lot of success in our home games. Once a PC has expended all of his Encounter powers he can roll a d6 to try and recharge one every round. On a 6 he regains the use of a single Encounter power (player’s choice). Utility Encounter powers and interrupt powers do not need to be expended before the PC can start to roll for recharge. However, they cannot recharge an unused power to “bank” a second use of it.
In some circumstances, especially for low-level adventures or situations where a PC is forced to fight superior numbers alone, we have allowed PCs to reroll to regain Daily powers. However, all of the PCs Encounter and Daily powers needed to be expended before they could roll to recharge a Daily. On a 6 they can still only recharge one power but in these cases they can choose a Daily or Encounter power.
Modify extra dice for strikers
Consider changing the way strikers that roll extra dice on a hit (Rogues, Rangers, Warlocks) do the extra damage. Instead of just adding on more damage dice, give them more attacks. For example, if a Rogue would normally add an extra +2d6 damage for sneak dice, instead allow the Rogue to make the same attack a second time. I realize that they’re giving up guaranteed damage for the chance at something greater, but if they were using an Encounter or Daily power they can potentially deal a lot more damage in the long run.
I’d also toy with the possibility of a mechanic that would let the second attack crit more easily. Perhaps for each extra damage die you sacrifice your crit range increase by one. So a Ranger that gives up +1d8 would crit on 19-20 and a Rogue that gives up +2d6 would crit on 18-20. I’ll admit that this mechanic will need some work, but it would let strikers do more striking.
Skills and abilities
There will be times when it seems to make more sense for a skill to be tied to a different ability. For example, Intimidate is a Charisma-based skill, but in the right circumstances it can certainly be tied to Strength. DMs should allow for a more fluid relationship between abilities and skills. Some knowledge skills could be tied to Wisdom depending on what kind of check is being rolled. Athletics and Acrobatics could easily be tied to Dexterity and Strength respectively instead of the other way around as is usually the case. If the player can explain why he thinks his skill check should be tied to a different ability, the DM should say yes and let him make the check using the modified score.
Turns on a timer
By now experienced 4e players should know how the game works. If you’ve been playing long enough to be experiencing burn out than you’re obviously familiar with 4e D&D. It’s time to stop coddling you. Combat can take a long time, especially at higher levels and especially if the party has six members. Everyone needs to know their character and know what that character is capable of doing.
For any group that has problems with players taking too long and combat taking too long, I suggest working under a timer. Two minutes is usually sufficient. When your time’s up you complete any action that’s in progress and then you move on to the next PC in the initiative. If you still had a move action left, too bad. It may seem harsh, but if you can’t figure out what to do on your turn you need to delay or make a simpler character. Obviously the DM can pause the timer if something completely unexpected happens or if someone else jumps in with an interrupt, but in the normal course of play their are no excuses for taking too long.